|The Barmaid Sings a Song|
|Summary:||When Maester Leandro discovers that Emmeline was once a mummer, he invites her to sing.|
|Date:||Sunday, October 16, 2016|
Quill and Tankard
This is the common room of the Quill and Tankard, that famous Oldtown Inn that has never closed in five hundred years. The building is a noble old half-timber structure with plastered stone between the enormous old black beams. It sits on a small rock of an island at the edge of the Honeywine River, and is accessed by a little footbridge, or by water-taxi.
Rivermen and seamen, smiths and singers, priests and princes, Lords and sellswords, travelers both noble and small, and the novices and acolytes of the Citadel - all come for a taste of the fearsomely strong apple cider that makes this inn so beloved by Oldtown's people. There is a pleasant buzz of chatter, cups and tankards being filled and refilled, and general laughter.
The fire in the hearth allows for a merry glow and a comfortable warmth from Oldtown's breezy, misty cobblestone streets. Benches and tables offer places to sit, and there is a deliciously toothsome smell in the air of food from the back.
Maester Leandro is wearing his robes today, and his maester's chain. He's a frequent visitor to the Quill and Tankard, particularly to listen to the musician, Madrighal play, or just to claim a table of his own, and drink while working on this or that. He's as often with other maesters, frequently arguing over this or that. Today he's alone though, as he enters, gaze scouring over the room as he makes his way towards an empty table.
It's been a slow afternoon. And now, quieter still at that time between lunch and dinner. "Good afternoon," says Emmeline, appearing at Leandro's table just as he reaches it. She bobs in a spirited curtsy. "Could I bring you some cider? Or perhaps something to eat?" she offers with a bright smile.
This barmaid is new, working at the Quill and Tankard for scarcely more than a week. Perhaps this is why she seems to be trying to make the best first impression possible.
"Yes," Leandro says. "What's the best of what's being served today?"
"So many good things. But the best?" Emmeline glances off towards the kitchens, thoughtful. "Mm. Soon the lamb will be finished roasted. S'for tonight, to make a stew." The girl looks to Leandro. "But, I could ask cook to cut you the best piece. So, I think that'd be the best right now. Hot and steaming. With bread, or I could bring it to you with roast onions and peppers too."
"Bring that then," Leandro says. "You're new here?"
Emmeline nods and turns to scamper off to the kitchens. But Leandro's question snags her. "Hm? Oh! Yes. Started just last week," she says, nodding with a hint of shyness despite her sunshine smile. "I'm Emmeline. Hope my service is to your liking!"
"We'll see once you bring the lamb," Leandro says. He'll wait for her to return before asking. "So where are you from?"
A hint of pink warms Emmeline's cheeks. "Right. Of course. Shouldn't be too long. I'll bring cider to start." And with that, she hurries off and returns but a moment later with a tankard of the tavern's famous brew. The young barmaid tends to one or two other patrons, but keeps heading back into the kitchen to check on Leandro's meal. Then she's gone for quite a while before returning with a plate of roast lamb on a bed of seared onions and peppers. Its succulent scent wafting with the plumes of steam. "Here we are."
Emmeline blinks, pausing at his sudden question. "Me? Oh. The Crownlands. Just a small village there. Wouldn't be a village if weren't for the crossroads. And- and you?"
Leandro digs into the food, eating very precisely. "The Citadel," Leandro says. "It's quite a long way from the crownlands. Much busier here, isn't it?"
Emmeline nods. "Yes. S'a bit overwhelming sometimes. But, s'a beautiful city. I'm glad I found my way here."
Leandro nods at this. "It is. The Hightower in particular. Lots to do too. Have you had the chance to see a play at the Whimsy yet?"
Emmeline shakes her head, slow and hesitant. "No. Not yet. But I'd like to. Might be I could even try to join. In time. But, Im just trying to find a bit of solid ground still. But I hope to see a play soon. Might go to watch Iris."
"Oh, Iris is one of their actors?" Leandro asks. "I'm sure she'll have a way in with Lord Loryn for you then. I can't see him saying no to you, if you manage to get an audition."
Emmeline's face half-turns aside with uncertainty. "You can't? But… you don't know me or mine. What I can do. But I suppose there'd always be a place somewhere for one so eager. But… I'd need coin for my work. For performance."
"You're an attractive young woman," Leandro says. "Of course people are going to want to see you on stage. That goes a long way. Further than any talent you may or may not have. And Lord Loryn does pay his actors well, I believe. The theatre's popular, it makes money."
Emmeline bows her head with another little flush of pink. The mention of well-paid actors makes her peek back over at Leandro. "That's good. Wasn't sure… since Iris still works here as well. I've done acting. I'd like to try more. I was a mummer before. But our troupe - we were a bit different. Had music - firebreathers and acrobats."
"Did you do any of that?" Leandro asks. "Firebreathing? Acrobating? At the same time?"
Emmeline's laughter comes bright and impish. Shaking her head, she says, "No. I never did fire-breathing. Always try to avoid fire. But, I joined the acrobats yes. I was the small one they tossed in the air. And also, I learned to perform contortion. And to dance. But my favorite was to sing."
"Will you be singing here?" Leandro asks. He is looking intrigued, musing over something.
Emmeline blinks. "Is there? At the tavern? If I'm asked. Um. And in the theatre? I could. I'd like to very much." She nods.
"Yes," Leandro says. "Madrighal performs here most nights. If you were to just let whomever hired you know, I'm sure they'd be happy for the business that your singing would attract. Particularly at a slow time, like now. You're best to go to them though, not wait to be asked."
"Oh. Thank you, yes. I'll try." Emmeline smiles. "Thank you. You're kind. You… have love for music? For the mummer's arts?"
"I've been working on translating some ancient songs," Leandro says. "The existing translations seemed to completely lack the true essence that those songs should have. Just translating the words themselves destroys the rhythm and rhyme. So Madrighal has been assisting in translating while preserving those."
Curiosity sparks in Emmeline's eyes. "Ancient? How long? How far? What do they sing of? Wh-" She cuts herself short with a flush, realizing she has asked too many questions all at once.
"Ancient Valyrian, Old Tongue, Rhoynish, some Ghiscari," Leandro says. "It's often fragments of what's been preserved. They sing of much the same things we do now. Love and honour, tragedy and adventure, learning rhymes too."
"Like torn pieces of a tapestry. You are mending them together? Is Madrughal helping to weave the missing pieces?" Emmeline bites her lower lip as she smiles. "Songs of our hearts all echo with the same thrums of pain, love, delight. S'beautiful. Different, but the same at heart. People are people no matter where you wander."
Leandro nods at this. "He is. He is the musician after all, and sometimes it takes an expert to do such things. You should ask him when you see him to teach you some of them. I'm sure he'd be glad to do so."
Emmeline nods, lowering her gaze briefly. "If you think he would. I'll ask." She tucks a loose tress behind her ear. "Thank you. You're kind. Casting some light that I might find a way back to singing and music."
"He would be glad to speak of such things with one as enthusiastic as he is," Leandro says. "And the more music lovers you can draw here with your singing, the better for all. Assuming you can sing. What is your favourite song?"
Emmeline brightens at Leandro's added encouragement. She nods, understanding his reserved judgement of her singing abilities. "Mm. I've never had a single favorite. If I ever fixate too much, the love is a flame that burns out too quickly. And it takes time to rekindle. But I keep favorites for different moments. And I like best the sweet soaring melodies that lift the spirits, that stir chills up your back and tingle in your hair."
"Could you sing something for me?" Leandro asks. "Or do you require accompaniment?"
Emmeline shakes her head and glances off. The tavern is still fairly quiet. No other tables needing her immediate attention. Looking to Leandro she says, "I could, if it would please you. I hope it will. What sort of song do /you/ wish?"
"A sweet soaring melody to lift the spirits," Leandro says with just a hint of a smile.
Emmeline's smile brightens with a touch of impish delight. Nodding, she bows and closes her eyes. She takes a deep, slow breath. Her voice comes soft, settling gently upon the low hum of chatter in the tavern. "A mere wisp of wind, almost unnoticed…" she begins.
A hush settles over the tavern as eyes glance over. In the silence, Emmeline's voice lifts light and sweet. "Stirring whispers, whispers, in the garden. She wanders, drifting, drifting, unfocused."
Leandro listens to Emmeline's performance, watching as she moves. He reaches for his paper, and charcoal in order to sketch her singing, almost absentmindedly.
Emmeline loses herself in her song, forgetting the world around her all together. Lashes half-lowered, her gaze is distant. Her sweet voice continues slow and soft as she sings of a lost maiden. It isn't what most might call a cheerful song. But it stirs the heart and kindles chills in those attuned to such sweet melancholy.
Through a sort of catharsis it might lift the spirits. The maiden has been lost for so long that she truly becomes but a gust of wind. But in this, she comes to find a sweet bliss. With each stanza, Emmeline sings of how the zephyr lifts the wings of birds to seek to soar, ruffles the hair of children laughing, and bears the fragrance of roses to those who savor it.
Leandro draws that wind, capturing Emmeline in free-flowing lines, trying to get that sense of freedom. It's a simple drawing he makes, but exquisite in that simplicity and how it portrays the movement and song.
Emmeline sways, caught up in singing. Her hands have folded closed against her breast. And when at last the song ends, the applause almost seems to startle the girl. Though her cheeks flood with warmth, she smiles bright with delight. Turning to the rest of the tavern, she curtsies with a bow of her head. Then turning to Leandro, she bows deeper still, in thanks for the chance to sing.
Leandro's got two silver stags in hand, which he offers to Emmeline as a tip. "You should be sure to thank all those who applauded," he urges her, certain that there'll be more coin forthcoming. "If just to see if they need more drinks."
Emmeline's eyes widen as Leandro hands her two whole stags. She accepts them with both hands and then hugs them to her chest. Again, she nods. "Thank you. So, so much. Thank you." She steps back, but seems hesitant, as if she doesn't quite want to leave Leandro's table. But then she nods again and tucking away the silvers, she heads off to drift from table to table. Though none are quite so generous as the Maester, Emmeline recieves far, far more in tips than she has in her entire first week.
Leandro gave so much because he's fully expecting the house to take a cut of the takings. One of the other men in the tavern's surely asking Emmeline if she can sing some popular tune next too. And a third calls out for the bear and the maiden fair.
The little mummer masquerading as a barmaid seems overwhelmed by the sudden chorus of requests. Tugged by this request and then that, at last she nods and offers to sing one of the light, whimsical tunes requested. As before, she sings it well. But after, her voice seems softer, and the girl a bit subdued. She shies away from the renewed onslaught of requests. Folding her arms across her belly, she bows deep, murmuring apologies, and takes flight into the kitchens.